Just A Way To Travel Down The Road

December 16, 2008

freeway1

You pick anyone on any street anywhere in the world and you’ll find there are things that they want that they cannot yet acquire. Each of us has wants. Everyone of us has things we wish that we had that we don’t have now. It may be a bigger house, or a nicer car. It might be new clothes or the latest gadget. No matter how old we get each of us could put together a list for Santa. We usually don’t, but it’s not because there aren’t things that we don’t wish for. It’s because we know the total in Santa’s bank account.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things that we don’t have as long as we don’t allow those wants to get in the way of our happiness today. So often I hear people talk about the things that they want and how they are connected to their ability to be happy. They’ll say things like, “If I just had a bigger house, then I could be happy,” or, “If I just had a nicer car, then I could be happy.” Whether it’s a house or car, a higher income or vacation people seem to qualify their wants with the fact that receiving them would make them happy.

It’s always amazing to me. “Then… I could be happy,” they say. As if the only thing standing in the way between them and a happy life is the acquisition of a want.

Unfortunately, almost without exception when people do finally acquire the bigger house, nicer car, higher income, or vacation the only thing that follows is not happiness but additional wants. If the bigger house becomes theirs then they began to talk about how something else on their list will “then make them happy.”

The reality is that happiness doesn’t come with things. It’s not something you achieve at all. There are people in the world who spend their whole lives chasing those things that they believe will make them happy and end their lives never acquiring the joy they pursued all their days.

I remember when I learned this lesson myself. I was 16 years old and barely home from the hospital after my diving accident. I was working hard to find a way to live my life in a wheelchair. There were so many days when all I thought about was walking. I was sure that if I could walk again, then I could be happy.

As each new morning would come I found myself still paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It was more difficult to be happy always concentrating on this want. One day I made the decision that with all my heart I would hope to walk tomorrow. But as for today I would be happy in a wheelchair.

Twenty-three years later I still hope to walk tomorrow but today, I am happy. Had I not adopted this frame of mind I would have spent the past two decades wishing every day that I could walk–waiting for that day to come to finally be happy.

So too it is with everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wishing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting. The problem comes when those wishes and wants dictate our daily happiness.

Happiness is not so much a place we will ever reach as much as it is a way that we travel through our lives–a highway of experiences and moments. If we think about joy as an interstate for life’s journey we have to watch for the on ramps. Just like trying to get on our local freeway on ramps are the key.

The on ramps in our lives are those things that bring us happiness in the moment. A child’s smile may be an on-ramp. Remembering the kind deed from a friend may be an on-ramp. A little service may be an on-ramp. Each of us has different things that allow us to merge into the traffic of contentment and joy.

But, if we don’t watch for our “on ramps” will never find our way. Each of us must look around our lives and find those things that bring simple happiness and remind us to travel meaningfully through each day.

Joy comes in the journey and happiness is not a destination, it’s just a way to travel down the road.

Jh-

Remember that the DVD contest closes Tuesday, December 16 at 9 PM PST. If you’re interested in winning one of my autograph DVDs follow this link and go to my previous post and leave a comment.

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One Hour

October 14, 2008

Hard times and bad days are a part of everyone’s life. No matter how dedicated we become to having a positive attitude, no matter how much effort we put in to looking at the good in our lives, life is filled with adversity and difficulty. The most positive, optimistic, cup half-full person in the world will have times when the experiences in their life becomes so overwhelming that they can barely put their heads in their hands.

As I travel around the world and have the opportunity to meet thousands of people in thousands of circumstances,  no matter where I go and no matter who I meet, invariably someone asks how I have dealt with the tremendous adversities that have been a part of my life.  the question is usually followed by a story of a substantial struggle or difficulty that has recently been either a part of their life, or the life of someone close to them.

When this question comes, and it does more than any other, I do my best to share some insight that might help them deal with the hardship that is become a part of their life experience. Depending on the adversity and the situation, I will try and find different pieces and parts of my experience to help. But, no matter the adversity or the situation, there is one piece of advice that I always share.

In the days and weeks after I broke my neck my life literally hung in the balance. Even on the good days the doctors were unsure if I was going to make it. One doctor remarked that in his over 20 years as a pulmonologist, I had the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen. At 15 years of age this was a wake-up call to the fragility and uncertainty of life. At a young age I got the opportunity to gain just a little understanding about the incredible gift that living is.

This realization, as powerful as it was, could not stay the sadness, frustration, and anger that my adversities brought to my everyday.  But, what this understanding did do was help me realize that life was too short to be spent mired in depression. So, I made a decision.

I decided that when the difficulties were too much to bear, I could take one hour. I gave myself one hour to be down, depressed, frustrated and mad. During this hour I could kick, bite, cry, scratch, scream, throw things, sob, or sulk. I could sit in silence. I could talk of giving up, and I could think about how life was unfair.

But, when an hour was over, I had to make sure that the depression, the frustration, the anger, the sorrow, the weeping, the wailing, and the gnashing of teeth had to be over as well.

This little bit of inspiration saved me. It gave me the chance to get out all those feelings of sorrow and ineptitude all the while keeping me from getting caught in that never-ending spiral of depression and gloom. It took discipline to keep it to an hour especially on those really bad days. But, every time I remained dedicated to the ideal I found my life to be better and my prospects brighter.

Life is hard. Everyone knows that personally and intimately. We, all of humanity, deal with difficult, arduous adversities that push us to the very brink, and we need time to express the frustrations that come from our hardships. However, although it is true that life is hard, it is also true that life is short — too short to be spent concentrating on the repugnant and forgetting about the elegant.

At the end of the day. all the anger and frustration in the world won’t change our situation. All the depression and sorrow you can muster won’t chase the adversity from your life. Whether we are happy or sad, we will still have to find our way through the difficulties that are part of everyone’s life.

I know that happy or sad I will still be a quadriplegic. Happy or sad, I will still be unable to move my hands. Happy or sad. I will still be unable to walk, and happy or sad, I will still be in a wheelchair — so I might as well take an hour and enjoy the ride.

Jh-


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